Milford’s downtown is a hair care hub
Emilio Risoni restores 1950s vintage cars, and one day he came to Milford from the Derry area to pick up an exhaust system for a 1956 Chevy Belair.
"I liked the look of the town," he said.
Risoni is also a third-generation barber, and his girlfriend, Kaitlyn Fisher, is a hair stylist.
They decided Milford would be a good place to build their dream – a 1950s-style barber and beauty shop.
The young couple recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of that dream: Belair Barber & Beauty on Nashua Street, near Town Hall.
Nearly every inch of the shop reflects the ’50s theme, with walls covered with pictures of Elvis, Wonder Woman and other icons. A radio plays classic pop tunes, and the tables are full of kids magazine from the ’50s.
Risoni and Fisher aren’t the only people who thought Milford was a good spot for a barber or a beauty shop.
There are at least two dozen in town, and many of them are around the Oval.
George Brown, who owns Arthur’s Barber Shop on the northwest side of the Oval, has been working here the longest. He bought the business from his brother, Arthur, in 1995, but George has been here for 35 years altogether, with a five-year gap when he worked in Nashua.
Brown remembers when all the Milford shops were closed on Wednesdays because men got paid on Thursdays and had little or no money left for a haircut. Now he keeps the Wednesdays-closed tradition because he appreciates a day off in the middle of the week.
Brown has noticed the extra competition lately. "All of a sudden they are popping up," he said as he trimmed a client’s hair.
Wendy Hunt, director of the Milford Improvement Team, says she doesn’t know why there are so many hair salons.
"But it’s nice that people come here to get their hair done and get a cup of coffee and shop," she said.
The newest shop is the Charles David Hair Studio on the west side of the Oval, which opened Sept. 1. It is owned by Lori Stecchi, of Amherst, who also owns the Marc Anthony Hair Studio in Nashua.
Hair stylist Nicole Hopcraft said Stecchi wanted to have a shop in a town that has a "small-town feel."
Barber shops are part of town history, and it wasn’t too long ago that there were five on the Oval.
The peaked-roof building known as Block No. 3 on the Oval’s south side has always housed a barber shop, according to the "The Granite Town," beginning with David Newton Goodwin’s shop that operated there from 1874-1919.
Dick MacDonald was a beloved barber in the same spot for 50 years before he hung up his scissors in 2012 and passed the shop to Marcia "Teddy" Benson, and now it’s Teddy’s Barber Shop.
No one should be surprised if even more shops pop up in Milford. The salon industry seems to be booming.
According to a report last year from the Small Business Development Center, there are about 86,000 hair care shops – 4,000 barber shops and 82,000 beauty salons – in the United States.
They have a combined annual revenue of about $20 billion, with revenue growth expected to improve, rising at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent to $58.7 billion by 2019.
And the improving job market should only contribute to higher enrollments at cosmetology schools, according to the report.